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[Airplane Survival Kit] Top traveling tips for pre-school aged kids

Airplane Survival Kit

Last month, my 4 year old and I embarked on an epic adventure to visit family in LA and he was beyond excited. We had left dad and little brother at home and planned to spend a few days together on a mommy/son/grandma trip. Wyatt was pumped. This was his first airplane trip he would remember, he was getting special time… with the over-emphasis of “just me” being declared EVERY time we talked about our trip, and a full week out of daycare and pre-school duties. That being said, as a self-declared neurotic mom with a series of bad airport experiences behind me, I was worried on how he would do. What if something went wrong? Would our flight get delayed? What if we missed our connection? What if our flight was (GASP) cancelled?! At the time I simply came up with what I thought was just a high level of “over-packing.” However when all was said and done, my over packing turned out to be a glorious combination of “what if’s” that all in fact ended up being put to use.

With a little bit of time and attention to detail I was able to widdle down the level of “stuff” and stick to the necessities so we could avoid over packing but still be prepared for the worst.

So here it is, our tested and fully awesome Airplane Survival Kit. Don’t leave home without one!

Carry On Check List

  1. Car seat (in a luggage bag)
  2. 2 carry on’s for mom (purse/laptop and a carry on bag)
  3. 1-2 carry on’s for pre-school aged kid

Car Seat

I made the mistake of checking my car seat the first time I flew with my kids. When our flight was cancelled we learned that the airline was so “under-staffed” due to weather they couldn’t confirm that we would actually get our bags right away. We were stuck with the reality that we could literally go NOWHERE since our car seat was now lost in baggage hell. We did eventually get it back but this was a level of anxiety I never want to live again!

Your carry on:

Mom's carry-on

Snacks, snacks and more snacks

OK, I don’t know about you but my kid is picky. I’ll never forget those moments before you have kids and think “my kid will be different, he will eat what I eat and will love his veggies.” HAHAHAHA. I also know that when my kids are hungry, they are nasty. To avoid tantrums, and the worry of not finding the right food your kid will enjoy, take them shopping prior to the trip. We picked out a few of his favorite healthy snacks and packed them in a carry on. This included some yogurts (with a FROZEN ice pack for security), applesauce packets, veggie sticks, crackers, bananas (yes I was made fun of for traveling with a bunch of bananas), and sun butter. Worst case scenario I could make him sun butter crackers, give him some veggie sticks, applesauce, and buy him a cookie for good measures. Trust me, making room for snacks can make or break your flight. When we were sitting on our first flight for 3 hours (before they decided to cancel us) there was no food for purchase yet and the cabin doors were closed. Wyatt got restless and those snacks saved the day for us as well as the people around us.

Change of clothes (for both of you) & Toiletries

Airports can be dirty and traveling can be full of “what if” scenarios that it is always a good idea to have a change of clothes for both of you. Aside from the usual (what if my kid has an accident) you have to worry about the chances that your flight may be delayed and/or cancelled and you get stuck in an airport hotel vs your final destination if you miss a connection. What’s more, if you do check your luggage (which I highly recommend) you also run the risk of your luggage being misplaced. With a change of clothes and toiletries for both of you, you will now be ready for a second day in case you and your checked luggage don’t find each other right away.

Your kids luggage

Kids carry on luggage

The purpose of EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) that you have your kid carry onto the plane is to keep him or her occupied. Here’s what we did:

The night before we left for vacation I asked Wyatt to choose his favorite toys and which he would like to pack. He could choose 2 (small) books, and some toys as long as they fit in his backpack. We were lucky to have received a travel suitcase for Wyatt which we put his bigger toys, pair of pajamas, and sneakers into. In his backpack we put all of his art supplies, kid safe headphones, movies (that I played on my laptop), and a few small toys he could play with in a small space. In our case this was his my little pony’s and magnatiles but anything will do. Now to some this may seem excessive but for us HE USED EVERYTHING. We were very careful with the level of toys and choices we made but overall that small amount of planning led to a large amount of relief and a travel happy pre-schooler.

So how did it turn out for us?

traveling with kids

Our trip was in fact a bit of a travel nightmare. But after driving through a snow storm on our way to the airport, being stuck on a plane for 3 hours until it was cancelled, spending the night in a local hotel, flying again at 7am (with only 5 hours of sleep for my 4 year old), 5 more hours before a connection, another flight and a rental car later…. Wyatt was doing awesome. Turns out we had just the right amount of snacks, distractions, and games to keep him occupied and mommy and grandma sane!


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